Working in the cloud
What we call cloud computing today grew out of a trend that began at the dawn of the web towards commercial hosting of servers and storage in professionally run data centres. As the internet grew and increasingly large-scale consumer web services appeared, service providers such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon realised that:
- They could rent out capacity that would otherwise be spare, and
- Opening up their application programming interfaces (APIs) to third party developers would make it possible to create a vibrant ecosystem of applications that no single company could likely construct on its own
While we tend to call the result ‘cloud computing’, the practical opportunity presented to us is storing and file sharing!
All three file sharing services are popular with university staff and students and are regularly used to organise and share documents and files with other researchers across multiple devices.
CloudStor+ is a free storage service provided by Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) to researchers at AARNet’s customer institutions (including the Charles Sturt University). Each individual CSU staff and researcher has a 100GB of storage with their free CloudStor+ account (with a maximum of 2GB per file).
CloudStor also has a fabulous file sender facility..for all those times when the email limit won’t let you share files. Currently they limit the amount of files you can upload to 30 files with a total maximum size of 2TB per upload.
If you require more capacity, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service provided by Google, which enables cloud storage (15GB of free space), file sharing and collaborative editing. You can access Drive if you have a Gmail or Google account. You get 15GB free for photos, documents and more.
Of course the stunning feature of Google drive and it’s various resources (documents, slides, spreadsheets, photos) is the TEAM functionality. Share and collaborate instantly regardless where you are in the world!
Dropbox is probably the most popular file hosting service that offers cloud storage and file synchronization. Dropbox synchronizes across multiple devices and is accessible through its website and many mobile applications.
The main difference between these two commercial cloud services is the amount of storage space you get for free (Dropbox’s 2GB vs Google Drive’s 5GB) and that Google Drive allows you to create and edit Google files within the platform, so that you don’t have to download and then re-upload them when you (or others) make changes, but you can only do this in the web browser, rather than offline
And of course there are also:
- Amazon Drive (5 GB free for Amazon Prime members),
- Microsoft OneDrive (5 GB free)
- Apple’s iCloud (5 GB free).
Considerations and risks
CloudStor+, Google Drive, Dropbox and other file sharing services are fantastic ways to manage and share your files with others. However, unlike CloudStor+, files stored on Google Drive and Dropbox will be on non-academic networks. Therefore, it is important to check if there are any restrictions that prevent you from uploading and sharing certain files with these external commercial services, i.e., copyright, privacy, ethics and security issues. For example, under copyright regulations, you will not necessarily be able to share copies of document, such as journal articles, unless you have the permission of the copyright holders. The Copyright office at CSU is always happy to advise.
Before sharing any material on these services, consider the following questions:
● What kind of material are you sharing, and is it appropriate for your chosen platform?
Does the material you are sharing contain sensitive information? If so, is sharing it on any of these cloud-based services the best way to disseminate it? Consider security measures such as encryption to protect your data.
● Are you allowed to share this material?
You must only share material in which you own copyright, or have the appropriate rights to do so. While there are limited provisions under copyright law that allow material to be shared online, sharing copyright material through these services without explicit or implicit permission from the copyright owner may infringe their copyright.
● With whom are you sharing this material?
Only share material with individuals you trust. Use private folders to restrict access to this material, and if publishing or sharing links to these folders, make sure to only send them to their intended recipients. Frequently review who has access to your shared folders, and update access to them regularly.
● How are you sharing this material?
Only use cloud-based services on computers that are secure against online threats such as viruses and key-logging software. If using mobile devices, make sure you are connected to the internet using an encrypted WiFi network. If you cease using a particular device or computer, make sure you deauthorise any cloud-based services from these devices.
● How long do these files need to be shared?
Make sure to remove files from these services once they have been shared. Do not keep files in shared folders for longer than necessary. These cloud-based services are not intended to be used as the sole repository for any University Record. You may want to consult the Research Office for assistance with managing your large research electronic documents and records.
How to access:
- You can access CloudStor+ here. Click on the “Logon” icon and select “The University of Melbourne” as your identity provider.
- Insert your Charles Sturt username and password (the one that you use to log on to your university system).
- Once you have logged in, you can upload a file by clicking on the arrow icon in the top left-hand corner. Select a file from your local computer to upload.
Share files with other users
- Once you have logged in, click on ‘up-pointing arrow’ icon and select a file from your local computer to upload.
- Move the mouse pointer to the file you just uploaded. A series of options will appear: ‘Rename’, ‘Download’, ‘Versions’, and ‘Share’. Click on ‘Share’ and then tick the box that appears with ‘Share with link’. A link to this file will appear just underneath.
- You also have the option of setting a password and/or an expiration date to this link. If an expiration date is set, the link will become inactive after the expiration date.
- Add, in the box provided, the email address of the person with whom you wish to share the file. Click ‘Send’ and—voila!—the file has been sent.
- Seven things you should know about cloud security, from Educause.
- Five data storage problems and how to avoid them
It might be time now to take a deep breath and read the NMC Horizon Report > 2017 Higher Education Edition which identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education.
Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in educational technology are placed directly in the context of their likely impact on the core missions of universities and colleges. The three key sections of this report constitute a reference and straightforward technology-planning guide for educators, higher education leaders, administrators, policymakers, and technologists.